CHI #4 Institutional stigmatizing of divorced members


Section 3.5.2 regards marriage in a temple for time only.

To be married for time only in a temple is not required for salvation. It really is just a nice service the church offers. I do not agree with the rules the CHI sets up for allowing or disallowing a couple to receive a for time marriage in the temple. If you see the opportunity as an actual blessing of God associated with this practice then you should be even more bothered about the way the CHI regulates it.

The CHI states that for time marriages can only be performed when all 4 of these requirements are met.
The man and woman must both be sealed to spouses who have died.
They must have valid temple recommends.
Temple marriages are legal marriages in the country where the temple is located and the couple has sold their marriage to the state via the marriage license process (I am paraphrasing here but you get the idea and we have beat that horse pretty good in CHI #3).

I save the best for last.

Neither the man nor the woman has been involved in any divorce while a member of the Church.

I am sure there is a very logical reason why the Church wishes to stigmatize or simply categorically judge all church members who have divorced while church members as unworthy of this little blessing.

And perhaps it could be said that this policy is not a stigma upon divorced people. That it is only so the church doesn’t have to review each case of divorce to meet some special standard. But that makes no sense. All recommend holders are equally worthy right? Worthiness is a threshold principle not a matter of degrees. Maybe they don’t want complaints from former spouses etc. But again why deprive one member for the possible actions of another?

No I don’t think we can escape that this requirement of the CHI is a form of passing a negative judgment upon LDS who divorce. And even if you came up with a reason why you believe that it is not a form of passing negative judgment the reality remains that this rule works an evil. How?

Since there is no explanation whatever given and the policy is to be enforced by the judges in Israel without even a possibility for exceptions, it absolutely places a prejudice in the minds of those brethren. And this prejudice permeates the beliefs of the members of the church.

I think you can see it prevents righteous judgment by these men. Now if you believe that all divorces indicate evil doing on the part of both persons then you probably agree with this CHI rule. And if you are a member of the LDS church you may very well believe that. But can you see that such a belief runs 100% counter to the words of Christ? He said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

As church members we very often believe that the prophets say, “If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on through eternity”. In fact that is a quote from Gordon B Hinckley. It was quoted in “Graduates Receive Challenge from Prophet,” Church News, 6 May 1995, 11. Did I get that wrong or did he say there would not be divorce?

Well that passes belief Gordon B. Hinckley did say that. But I will give President Hinckley some slack on this one and say he was not speaking as a prophet there. I say he was just making some remarks to graduates as a man because in a general conference session he spoke and said something a little different. He said, “If every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion, there would be very little, if any, divorce.” (The Women in Our Lives,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 82–85)

I have heard numerous LDS members quote that phrase as if it said, “there would be no divorce.” But he didn’t say “no divorce.” Good for President Hinckley for saying that even when we do all we can to be righteous, divorce is possible.

But President Hinckley’s carefully worded talk did not change the prevailing belief among LDS which is supported and strengthen by talks and counsel from priesthood leaders. We are taught to believe that if a man “would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his” wife, there would be no divorce. I know I grew up (born in the covenant) thoroughly believing that.

But why did I think that? Well because I have been taught all my life about how special women are that they are just naturally more righteous than men. And so if you married a temple worthy sister and did all in your power to obey God and to please her and treat her well then divorce would not be a part of your life. This is discussed in the book Sex at Dawn as being a very strong Victorian age idea. And we all know it remains entrenched in the teachings of the LDS church. Well I really did believe it and counted on it to be true.

Even if your belief isn’t as extreme as mine was most LDS people still have incorporated in their beliefs a form of prejudice against members who divorce. It ends up in our minds that if there was a divorce both were at fault to some degree. It takes two to tango, we say. So when we see a prejudice against divorced people we feel it is justified. I of my own self know better, now.

Do you think a woman who is beat by her husband and screamed at and called all sorts of foul vicious names by him, a woman who is belittled and falsely accused by him hour upon hour, day after day and accused falsely before her fellow church members and priesthood leaders behind her back and then he lies to her adult children about her and turns them against her, do you think it is a sin for her to divorce him? What if he pulled a knife on her and told her not to come near him because she was so evil? What if he accused her of always praying to the devil and the devil was her best friend whom she loved and she had never ever prayed to God? Do you think she should be denied to be married for time in a temple because she experienced this and then he demanded she divorce him and she trying to please him did get a divorce from him?

I don’t believe she has done any wrong. But apparently the Church does. What do you think of such a woman?

Now what do you think if it was a woman that did those things to her husband? Do you find such a thing harder to believe than it being a man that did those things? It is a good check of your personal sex bias to answer that.

It may seem I have gone off on a tangent. But the point is the CHI has by this rule placed a bias in the minds of the judges of Israel against people who have been divorced. I think it is wrong. I think God thinks it is wrong.

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7 Comments

  1. Fascinating. You’re certainly right about the assumptions. I recall a time when divorce was very uncommon in the Church, a divorce’ had a real stigma. Around 1972 I spent several weeks in Provo. A divorced female friend of mine had already been living there for about a year, and told me the neighbors in her apartment complex shunned her, and would not let their children play with her four year old daughter.

    I found that hard to believe, as at that time I assumed Utah was Mormon Mecca and believed everyone there MUST be wonderful and Christlike. But I saw it for myself.

    Now, of course, divorce is not uncommon, and it is no longer assumed that a divorced woman is automatically some kind of trollop. I even wonder how many of those fine sisters who shunned my friend ended up in broken marriages.

  2. On a different topic, when my wife sought divorce, my bishop took my temple recommend, explaining that it was a stake policy because of potential sin. At that time I cared very little about it, but later I asked 1 or 2 other bishops about such a policy and they had not heard of such.

    Funny.

  3. CHI Book 1 indicates that a member can choose to not relinquish their temple recommend upon request — if that is done, then the bishop will have not request the stake president deactivate the bar code associate with that recommend. This extra step may bring to light any attempted strong-arming [as James’ bishop demonstrated].

  4. I’d like to point out that the scenario you use to illustrate your point (that of the abused wife whose husband forces a divorce) has one flaw in it’s application. A woman in that position would be fully eligible for an annulment of her original sealing to the abusive man. As such, she would be able to marry for eternity to another if she so desired. The prohibition listed in this section would not apply to her.

    I suspect that this eligibility requirement is more likely based on a far too common practice of using temple sealing for time as a way to wrap oneself in the “cloak of righteousness”. A couple will divorce for reasons of incompatibility after years of selfishness or communication problems or what have you, each of them feeling like they are the less guilty party, blaming the other for the failure of the marriage. Each one wishes to portray his or herself as the wronged partner and vindicate his or her actions in the eyes of their children or other loved ones. Far too often a “sealing for time” in the temple is sought by one or the other in a subsequent remarriage as a way to “show” that they, unlike their ex-spouse , are STILL “worthy”. In such cases, the person is, unconsciously or not, using the temple to vindicate him or herself. The marriage for time would be equally lovely and good in the sight of God whether held in the temple or a chapel or in the park but the spouse, seeking a sense of “I’m okay, see–I’m in the temple” USES the temple as a means to reassure him or herself or to prove a point.

    Now, I am not saying that every person who seeks a marriage for time in the temple is guilty of this machination, but I have seen it happen way too many times in my life. It is far too common. It invariably increases the tension between ex-spouses, further alienates from the temple children who are angry at the remarrying spouse, and makes it much harder for bishops to try to create peace in divided families.

    Since, as I said, a marriage in a chapel is equally good and hopeful in the eyes of God as a marriage for time in the temple (marriage IS ordained of God), it makes a great deal of sense to have this policy in order to try to avoid the damage that can be done by a self-righteous or insecure ex who is using the temple for his or her own purposes. It allows all the blessings of a marriage for time while avoiding much of the egregious damage that is too often caused by thoughtless use of the temple.

    Certainly I agree that bias against people who have gone through the heartbreaking experience of divorce is absolutely wrong in the sight of God. However, I do not think that that bias is at the heart of this instruction. I think rather it is in place to prevent inconsiderate or selfish use of temple privileges and to prevent further hurt and anger in divided families.

  5. Mary B thank you for your comment.
    I am trying to see if I understand your statements.
    First a woman can ask for a cancellation of sealing. I am not aware of any annulment provisions for a temple sealing. An annulment as I understand it says in the eyes of the law it never happened because it was invalid. But I believe in the church a sealing can be canceled with approval. I know in cases where a woman wanted a cancellation but was not given it. The same is true for men I am sure. In fact even when a man was very bad the church will only cancel the sealing once the woman has a new man to be sealed to.
    The sealing is to the family of God. So even if your spouse does not make it there your sealing forms a link between you and God.
    So if we are just talking about cancellation of sealing the exact same things apply to a man as a woman no? Can a man ask to have his sealing canceled because the wife was bad to him? I don’t know. I don’t think it is that simple since we believe in repentance even in the spirit world.
    Now the important point is that even if this dear sister who was so horribly abused gets an annulment or cancellation of sealing she is still never allowed to be married in the temple for time. She can of course be sealed to another man if she gets a cancellation of sealing from a previous husband. But even if she has been sealed to another man and he dies she can never be married for time in the temples. Same with a man.
    So I don’t see how this policy can avoid any of what you mention. Any worthy previously divorced LDS can get sealed in the temple for time and eternity, not just a for time marriage but an eternal sealing. If any ex spouse was going to use the temple for a way to be cruel to others they still can do that with the current policy. But that is a completely separate issue. Even if what you say was the reason the policy would still be punishing righteous people for the possible actions of the unrighteous.
    And if the church was trying to prevent what you mention then they would have to prevent the horrible people who were divorced while members of the LDS church from ever going back to the temple.
    You see that last sentence is a condemnation of all people who divorced while they were members. And it is prejudice and cruel to judge others that way. But that is what the policy here does.

  6. Thank goodness in my mind polyamory is more of the end result and the idea that Joseph Smith compared a sealing to stewardship, definitely not ownership.

    This topic can quickly make one ill because it wreaks of a need for power over others. It can be compared to having a leader dictate how sexual intercourse or intimacies should be “rendered”. LOL

    If “polyamory” OR “all things in common” is really where it all ends up in the end, it seems to make divorces and sealings things of the past or of a lower law, which in my reckoning, the current church is definitely lower than the church or organization in heaven.

    Makes one wonder if God hates murder as much as He hates divorce? Thus, how would Nephi’s standing be in the current church for having “killed Laban for righteousness’ sake”? (Just think that a spouse can get a church supported divorce simply because their soon-to-be former spouse uttered the first part of this paragraph!!! So, how much stock should be placed on this matter if divorce can be had so easily? I would GLADLY choose being divorced over being forced not to think.

    dyc4557, are you my brother from another mother? LOL

  7. To answer some questions:
    James Steven Graham on December 1, 2010 11:13 am said, “On a different topic, when my wife sought divorce, my bishop took my temple recommend, explaining that it was a stake policy because of potential sin. At that time I cared very little about it, but later I asked 1 or 2 other bishops about such a policy and they had not heard of such.”

    My mother divorced in 1958/59 at the advise of her ecclesiastical leader (can’t remember whether it was a bishop or stake president). Her bishop temporarily took her recommend because it was a policy, but it was only taken until he knew she was innocent of sin in regards to the divorce. He never thought she was guilty of anything, and only did it because he was “supposed to”.

    Dyc, one does not have to be that horrible for one’s spouse to be justified in getting a divorce. I doubt very many men (or women) would do ALL of those things.

    My first ex (I’ve got a double whammy) was not nice at all. Emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc. he was “abusive” (I hate to use that word, because I reacted by not being very nice, myself.). In trying to convince me that I had it good, his mother would sometimes say, “At least he doesn’t hit you.” (His father did hit his mother, but the man was dead long before I came on the scene.)

    Finally, I became brave enough to seek out a divorce (but I spent nearly a week in a safe house while he was served with a restraining order, so I could go through the divorce with as little fear as possible.). When the divorce was finalized, I began telling people. Only one person was not happy for me and she didn’t know the situation. She asked, “Is that good or bad?”

    I saw my stake president in the hall at church and told him. He said, “I’m not supposed to say this, but,” then he gave me a quick side-hug and said, “Congratulations.” (By the way, neither he nor I had our recommends pulled. He was going to a different stake than I was.)

    Five or six years later, the ex was persecuting me. He had followed me to the other end of the state. I wanted a cancellation because he was accusing me of “committing adultery” with anyone who crossed his mind. I talked to my bishop, who was willing. Then the bishop talked to the stake president.

    Bishop then told me that the church didn’t usually grant cancellations unless a woman was going to remarry (men can’t get cancellations), but that the sp had said to try anyway. You see, by that time, the ex had shown his true colors to the bp and sp.

    I was afraid to go through with it, but finally did when the ex told me that the definition of adultery (in the D&C) was “being with another man” – which meant if I was in the same room as another man, I was committing adultery with him (I kid you not), and the only way I would not be guilty of that was to get a cancellation. I chose to take that as permission. The bishop helped me all the way. Long story short, I got the cancellation.

    Didn’t trust marriage enough the second time to try for a sealing right away and was glad.

    Anyway, I hope this clears up some things brought up in this thread.


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